Today we celebrate the Autumnal Equinox. And without a doubt you can sense the transition of moving from one season into the next. The light is changing and so are the shadows. There has been a nip to the first blush of dawn air this past week, before the day fully awakens and gradually begins to warm up.
In autumn of last year, Fortnum & Mason held their second annual “Chocolate Library Short Story Writing Competition”. They had selected a number of titles from their chocolate library collection. A starting point for each bar was given and the writer had free rein to create a tale around the decadent chocolate bar of their choosing. Not including Fortnum & Mason’s opening, the story had to be kept to a maximum of 500 words.
I read each chocolate bar ingredient description and the suggested jumping off point and one in particular stood out to me. For the fun of it, I thought I would enter the competition. I didn’t win, but it was an excellent exercise in working towards a concise story. Drafting, writing, cutting the fluff and ensuring that the tale you have woven has good “meat and potatoes” and not too much gravy.
I wanted to save it for posterity and so I thought I would share it here, an autumnal story for the official start of the fall season.
Beneath The Amber Moon
On a cold autumn night, one of Britain’s smallest villages will become the country’s most infamous, with the perplexing disappearance of all its inhabitants.
She arrived on the wind; her gold stockinged feet landing amongst the crisp russet autumn leaves. Her skin hummed with magic underneath a velvet cape. Soft orange curls, tinged with highlights of garnet, framed a delicate face and the bridge of her nose was sprinkled with chocolate hued freckles. She smelled exotically of spice and musk.
She had heard tales of this hamlet while sitting on her grandmother’s knee by the fire. The shadows dancing and leaping along the wall transformed into shapes that told of a village filled with strange folk. A folk who made a concoction of velvet fire that tickled your nose and filled your belly with a radiant heat that traveled down into your toes. They celebrated this caramel hued elixir one night a year when the amber moon hung low and bathed the world in a shimmer of gilded beams.
She knew that one day she would seek out this mystical village to bring this epicurean liquid back to her land. It would be the singular ingredient that distinguished their hot chocolate above all others. Now, after the passing of many moons and her unceasing exploration, she stood at the edge of the oak woods and sniffed the air.
Dusk was not far off. The villagers were gathered round a radiant bonfire that had been lit upon the tor. For on this night of the amber moon an illustrious feast was held to toast the harvest. There was music, dancing and merriment as whiskey passed from one hand to another.
Silently, she stole through the town, observed only by an ebony cat perched on its doorstep. As she approached the bonfire the revelry was in full swing. Weaving through the crowds she came to stand in front of the flames. From within her cloak she produced a small copper pot and a bar of milk chocolate. Nestling the pot amongst the embers she broke the chocolate into it. The sweet aroma of warm cacao drew the curious villagers around the stranger.
Suddenly, a hand thrust out a finger of whiskey. Taking the offered dram she poured it in. The mixture bubbled and frothed. Decanting the brew, she took a sip and was momentarily overcome; she had found the ingredient she had long sought. From one villager to the other it was passed while she whispered an incantation. They all imbibed and the goblet never ran out.
The air around them sizzled and sparked. With every word that fell from her lips, their dancing became more frenzied, their singing more raucous, and the fiddling more thunderous. They were bewitched. And, with a snap of her fingers they all vanished. A hush fell over the village.
No one knows what happened to these poor souls. But, as night falls, beneath the amber moon some say you can still hear the merriment of laughter and song; catch the potpourri of chocolate and whiskey in the air; and see the bonfire flickering on the tor.